Monday Mornings with Madison

Core Values: The Heart of any Business – Part 1

Change is a fact of life and an inherent part of business.  With technology, the relentless pace of change has accelerated forcing businesses to either catch up or keep up.  Companies are compelled to evolve with the times.  Phone companies evolved from switchboards and rotary phones to smart phones with data plans.   Record producers evolved from phonographs and vinyl records to digital downloads and playlists.  Car manufacturers evolved from hand-cranked motor cars in one-color models to keyless ignition vehicles with self-driving engines in most every shape, size and color. Change is indeed unrelenting, affecting almost every aspect of business.  Almost. Continue reading

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The Six Keys to Fulfillment and Work-Life Balance

In the U.S., work consumes a huge part of most people’s lives.  In 2014, 40% of all U.S. employees worked an average of 40 hours per week, not including the time it takes to get ready to go to work and the commute to and from work.  But the majority worked even more.  A Gallup report released in 2014 showed the average time worked by full-time employees had ticked up to 46.7 hours a week, or nearly a full extra eight-hour day.  And salaried employees worked an average of 49 hours per week.  In fact, 50% of all U.S. employees work between 40 and 60 hours per week, not including prep or commute time.  And for business owners and top-level professionals, a work week consumes upwards of 60-80 hours.  Since a week has just 168 hours and the average person sleeps from 35-60 hours a week (depending on the person), for many people there isn’t time for much else. Continue reading

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Enthusiasm: The Best Workplace Contagion

In the book entitled Be Yourself – Discover the Life You Were Meant to Live, author John Mason writes that “Every great and commanding movement in the history of the world incorporated enthusiasm.  Nothing great was or will be achieved without it.”  The poet and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed, saying “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Mason added that, “In a survey, two hundred national leaders were asked what makes a person successful.  Eighty percent (of the respondents) listed enthusiasm as the most important quality.   Some pursue happiness – others create it.  A person who is enthusiastic soon has enthusiastic followers.” Continue reading

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Pride In One’s Work

Pride is often thought of as a flaw or sin.  “Being prideful” is considered synonymous with being conceited, haughty or egotistical.  It is the opposite of humility.  There are few personality traits more distasteful than a person who is prideful or boastful.  “Pridefulness” is seen as a shortcoming or failing of character.  However, there is another kind of pride.  “Taking pride” in one’s work is actually a virtue or quality.  It is one that employers should seek in new hires, and it is a trait that every employee should embrace and emulate. Continue reading

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Meeting Infinite Sales Demands with Finite Marketing Resources

There is a silent (or sometimes not-so-silent) battle waged between what the sales department wants and what the marketing department can and should deliver.  Business leaders may only be vaguely aware of this tug-of-war but it exists in most organizations.  There are two reasons for this.  First, salespeople are always under great pressure (internal and external) to make sales.  Not only does the company want them to sell more, but they themselves want to earn more.  But selling requires a lot of time and effort.  To ease the burden, they look to marketing for help.  Second, salespeople are bombarded by other companies’ impressive marketing efforts.  Newsletters.  Email drip campaigns.  Remarketing Campaigns.  Seminars.  Blogs.  Billboards.  Ads.  Videos.  Tradeshow exhibits.  Competitor marketing is particularly irksome.  Logically, salespeople believe that if they do the same marketing, they too will succeed.  This is the business equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Continue reading

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The “Many-Sizes-Many-Approaches” Business Model

One of the hardest things for businesses to understand is how their clients truly think and feel.  One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs and managers make is to assume that customers want the same things that they want.  Typical thinking goes something like this:  “If I like X, then my customers must like X too.  If I really dislike Y, then I’ll bet my customers must really dislike Y too.”  This “Just Like Me” mentality seeps into sales techniques, marketing campaigns, operational procedures, customer service policies and more.  But, in truth, management is often totally out of touch and confused about what their clients want or need in order to be satisfied and remain loyal.  This “Just Like Me” thinking is like a poison that seeps into the water… it blends in and contaminates everything.  It makes a manager mistakenly believe that he knows what’s best for clients because everyone thinks and feels just like he does. Continue reading

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Honesty and Integrity in Business

If there is one single quality that every business should seek in its employees, colleagues, vendors and even customers, it is honesty.  But not only should businesses want to see that quality in its people, honesty should also be the bedrock principle upon which all organizations function.  Indeed, Harvey S. Firestone, inventor and founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tires, said “I believe fundamental honesty is the keystone of business.”  Likewise, Ed MacMahon, the late singer, comedian, program host and announcer, once said “Honesty is the single most important factor having a direct bearing on the final success of an individual, corporation, or product.”   General wisdom dictates that honesty is one of the most important qualities that a person or company can demonstrate. Continue reading

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The Inconsistency of Being Consistent

A 2014 survey by specialist journal IRS Employment Review found that while the attitudes of employees can make or break a company, bad management was a far bigger drag on a company’s productivity and performance.  Bosses must provide sound leadership in order for their direct reports to perform and achieve peak productivity.   Of course, no one is perfect and – like all employees — bosses have weaknesses as well as strengths.  What is interesting is that managers tend to share the same flaws.  The most commonly reported characteristics that employees dislike about superiors include favoritism, lack of communication, micromanagement, incompetence and ruthlessness.

Notwithstanding the myriad of frustrating and off-putting traits workers dislike in their supervisors, there is one characteristic that is consistently disliked most.  That is inconsistency.  Apparently, even the most odious managers and overbearing bosses are preferred over a supervisor who is inconsistent.  Why is inconsistency so reviled?  And why is consistency such a valuable element of management?

What Employees Want Most

According to Harvard Business Review, “Too often, businesses fall short not because leaders don’t understand the business, but because they don’t understand what the people who work for them need in order to bring their best effort to work.”  Top managers understand that consistency is valuable for a variety of reasons.

1.  Consistency breeds Confidence.

Employees respond best when management acts in a predictable, not capricious, manner.   Employees then know what to expect.  Most employees do not mind working for a tough demanding manager so long as they feel the person is fair and consistent.  Problems creep in when a manager’s actions fluctuate wildly – encouraging and supportive one day followed by distant and irritable the next.   Employees are undermined and uncertain when they are asked to prioritize one project one minute and then a different project the next.  When an employee doesn’t know what to expect, it creates a circle of uncertainty which leads to doubt.  But when a manager is consistent in attitude and management style, the right circumstances create a constructive circle: consistent behavior breeds employee confidence, and employee confidence breeds competence.

2.  Consistency leads to Engagement.

Erratic management behavior alienates employees and dismantles trust.  Simply put, it makes people nervous.  Employees want a steady manager they can trust.  Inconsistency leaves employees disengaged, afraid of losing their jobs and prone to act defensively.  An employee cannot be engaged if they are scared. Thoughtful consistency, on the other hand, brings out the best in others.

3.  Consistency builds Trust.

Dependable working conditions, clearly defined goals and predictable job demands create a work environment that’s reliable. Employees don’t have to walk on egg shells, trying to figure out if they are meeting the boss’ expectations or if the boss is dissatisfied. Consistency builds trust between subordinates and managers, so supervisors don’t have to micromanage employees and subordinates feel secure about their duties. Consistency also produces trust between team members — each worker knows what she must contribute to the project so tasks aren’t overlooked or ignored.

4.  Consistency fosters Respect.

Respect and consistency go hand-in-hand. Upholding consistent values, maintaining short- and long-term priorities and communicating strategically helps co-workers, subordinates and colleagues perceive a manager as competent. Managers should ask themselves: “Can my employees count on me?” “Are my expectations fair and consistent?” “Do I treat my subordinates fairly?”   Whether an entry-level manager or a senior supervisor, consistent rational decisions help a boss stand out as a dependable and trustworthy part of the team.

5.  Consistency allows for Accurate Measurement.

Until a new idea, process or system has been tried for a period of time in a consistent manner, it impossible to know if it works.  Effectiveness cannot be measured unless what is being measured is performed consistently.  New initiatives, processes, and organizational structures need time before judged a success or failure. Consistency provides the time to see things clearly in order to identify whether to tweak, overhaul or toss.

6. Consistency creates Accountability.

Employees should be held accountable for their deliverables and goals. Managers should do the same.  Managers should establish consistent and recurring meetings when a project or aspect of the business requires attention.  A set time to report on progress is often the catalyst that moves an initiative along to a successful end.

To be successful, a leader must demonstrate consistency in philosophy, principles and actions. Leadership is strengthened when the leader communicates a clear philosophy that is never altered. Leadership is reinforced when the leader espouses fundamental principles of engagement that are adhered to without equivocation. Leadership is fortified when the leader consistently takes actions that are in harmony with a stated philosophy and set of principles.  In the end, effective, powerful leadership simply comes down to a manager consistently being the same leader today that he was yesterday and will be tomorrow.

Quote of the Week

“Trust is built with consistency.” Lincoln Chaffee

 

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The Evolution of Business Role Models – Part 2

Certain people rise above regular folks to become so successful, well-known and admired in their field of expertise that they become a household name.  They become icons.  This is true in every area from aeronautics to haute cuisine.  There are few who don’t now the names of the great aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earheart.  And most everyone knows the names of chefs Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsey and Emeril Lagassi.  These individuals possess certain qualities, talents and skills that catapulted them into a stardom of sorts.  They are the doers, movers and shakers and innovators of the times.  We draw inspiration from these icons. Continue reading

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The Evolution of Business Role Models – Part 1

Practically every industry these days has icons. It is no longer just about actors and musicians. From inventors to scientists and from business leaders to politicians, every field has its share of celebrities, living and gone. In the world of science, they include Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Jane Goodall, Alfred Nobel, Edwin Hubble and Stephen Hawking. Technology has heroes of its own including Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), Sergei Brinn, Larry Page, Dave Packard, Bill Hewett, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Even the world of real estate has icons including Donald Bren, Stephen Ross, Jerry Speyer, Sam Zell, Steve Schwartzman, and, of course, Presidential candidate Donald Trump. And in the category of “captains of industry” are some of the most respected names in business including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Rupert Murdoch, Jack Welch, Michael Eisner, Lloyd Blankfein, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name just a few. Continue reading

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